- Published: 10 March 2017
For the past 37 years, Diane Gunaka has operated Sunshine Activity Center, the only afternoon and evening respite care center for developmentally disabled adults on the North Side of Chicago. She has lovingly created a place where developmentally disabled adults could learn to care for themselves, participate in programs and outings, and provide their parents with some respite of their own.
After weathering two years of the budget impasse, though, Sunshine Activity Center may have to close its doors this June after its contract was not renewed. The center is entirely funded by the state and does not receive any federal support.
“The staff at Sunshine Activity Center provides a great service to their clients and families,” State Senator John Mulroe said. “I am always impressed when I visit the center at how well the clients are cared for.”
For the past eight months, the center has operated without state support. Sunshine Activity Center’s doors have remained open thanks to the generous support of donors, but that money has almost run out. With clientele that are for the most part elderly, and staff members that are stretched thin, the center has found that there are limited opportunities to fundraise.
As a result of budget cuts over the past few years, Sunshine Activity Center has been forced to reduce staff and cut back on programming. While they used to employ seven staff members to care for 25 developmentally disabled adults, they now employ three people and staff has had to double up on duties. They have also had to cut their home living program and limit outings.
“We’re trying to continue it, but I don’t know how long we’ll be able to hang on,” Gunaka said.
Gunaka stated that if Sunshine Activity Center closes, some clients will be left without service while others won’t have care in the evenings.
After 37 years of service, the state decided not to renew Sunshine Activity Center’s contract, citing that the center didn’t meet the respite requirement. Gunaka said that the state limited Sunshine Activity Center to 25 program participants, but then faulted the center for being too small.
The families of Sunshine Activity Center have written to the governor, pleading for support. He has replied with his apologies but with no offer of assistance.
To support Sunshine Activity Center and their efforts to serve developmentally disabled adults on the Northside of Chicago, click here for their GoFundMe page.